Rahiem Shabazz – Education: From A Hip-Hop Journalist Point Of View
An exclusive interview with Rahiem Shabazz
From writing, editing, interviewing & promoting Hip Hop to eventually moving behind the camera to direct, Rahiem Shabazz comes with a blend of education & entertainment.
He is currently traveling around the United States nationwide to promote his hard hitting, informative documentary “Elementary Genocide”. It highlights the issues facing Black males & the educational/school & legal systems. Rahiem has kindly taken time out from his very hectic schedule to build with me about his work.
Peace to the God, I will that all is well with you. Many thanks for giving me the the opportunity to build.
Rahiem Shabazz: Peace. I’ like to begin by saying that the pathway to education should not be impeded by those who live outside the community. The children are not the perpetrators of the education system, they are the victims and we are all have a duty to protect them. Thus, is the reason I spearheaded the movement to film and release “Elementary Genocide”. The great literary genius James Baldwin states, “For these are all our children, we will all profit with or pay for what they believe”.
Now before we find out more about the man behind the camera & the pen, along with your involvement with Hip Hop, please tell us more about your latest documentary “Elementary Genocide”.
Rahiem Shabazz: Elementary Genocide is more than a documentary, its a call to action to overhaul the public school system and to stop the school to prison pipeline. We have several feature contributors such as Dr. Umar Johnson, Dr. Boyce Watkins, Rapper Killer Mike, Tracey D. Syphax and many other notable activist, teachers and academia scholars.
Was their anything in particular that prompted you to put “Elementary Genocide” together, or is the documentary’s content something you felt that needed to be addressed? Perhaps it was a combination of reasons.
Rahiem Shabazz: The main impetus was my desire to highlight the school to prison pipeline and to show the correlation, between school and prison, because until this documentary many did not know it existed. The term school to prison pipeline has been thrown around loosely, but this is the first comprehensive documentary that magnifies the problems and puts the spotlight on the solution.
You have been on a promotional tour with the documentary, holding screenings. How well do you feel it’s been received? Also has there been much if any difference regionally in reaction to it?
Rahiem Shabazz: I’m currently on the “Shackles 2 Solution Tour” with Freedom Fighter/Author/Activist Kalonji Jama Changa of the FTP Movement. Thus far the screening are well attended and some are standing room only. Surprisingly enough, a lot of white folks come out and speak about the injustice happening to black and brown youth. See, the emotional power of truth will make all bear witness. We just need more folks to take a stand and defend these rouge policies that target the children of the inner city, because if we don’t then we are co-conspirators in our own oppression.
What do you feel is your best interview to date?
Rahiem Shabazz: Personally, I do not have a favorite interview. I think everyone did an exceptional job in articulating the dire need to eradicate the school to prison pipeline and showing the prison industrial complex is modern day slavery that serves the interest of the rich. I think people were surprised by Killer Mike’s analysis of the tragedy that is happening. The reason being is because rappers are not look to as intellectuals and are regarded as just entertainers. But, the brother dropped it heavy on us.
You have indicated that a part two to “Elementary Genocide” will be produced. Are you looking at a continuing series of documentaries & possibly highlighting other subject matter?
Rahiem Shabazz: Indeed. There is a part 2 to the documentary called, “The Board of Education vs The Board of Incarceration”. I have several ideas for future documentaries on different subject matters. I also plan on continuing my web-series, “The 30 Day Rule”. After the success of the 1st episode there is a lot of response from the fans to continue the series. We were able to get over 100,000 views on Youtube.
The inability for Black People to receive justice continues to be highlighted. How far in your opinion is the racial divide in America?
Rahiem Shabazz: The racial divide in America widens everyday and justice is not rendered to black and brown people. Today, I read about the tragic death of 16-year old Kimani Gray that was brutally murdered in New York City by an undercover officer. He was unarmed and the officer is not being charged with murder. Then we have Trayvon Martin, Kendrick Johnson, Renisha McBride and many others who met their untimely death and justice was never served. Most recently, the world got to see the murder of Eric Garner in Staten Island at the hands of the racist police. We still waiting on the verdict on that one. There is a need to ensure that justice is served by any means necessary, if not we need to take it to the streets and I’m not talking no peaceful march, where we sing we shall over come. Our grandmothers and grandfather did that and we are thankful for their sacrifice, but this is a new generation answering the call for freedom, justice and equality and its only a matter of time before we get it.
Now let’s focus on the man himself. Journalism is clearly a calling & a talent of yours. How did you get your start in the industry? It must have been great for yourself to be able to do articles on Hip Hop.
Rahiem Shabazz: I been apart of the hip-hop culture from the time I can remember growing up in the Bronx and Harlem. It’s only natural that my profession would’ve involve hip-hop, so I ventured off into the journalism side of the industry. Throughout, my illustrious career I’ve written for just about ever urban driven publication and I transition over into the film industry. Hip-Hop has always been the voice for the voiceless and those who were marginalized by society. Now the voice of rage and anger is expressed in my documentaries, so its still hip-hop to me because hip-hop is not just music, its a culture.
You are the owner of Rasha Entertainment, is the focus predominantly music, or does it encompass entertainment in general? The website seems to have an emphasis on current Hip Hop.
Rahiem Shabazz: Rasha Entertainment is a subsidiary of Rasha Visions LLC which is the parent company. Rasha Entertainment is known for its website that has been in existence since 2005. It can be classified as a hip-hop website, but over the years we have evolved and will continue to evolve. Its run by myself and 4 other dedicated staff members. We average over 3 million page views a month.
With multimedia through the internet increasing, do you have any plans to expand Rasha Entertainment, perhaps visually through television?
Rahiem Shabazz: In the future, Rasha Entertainment will not just be looked at as a website, we already monetize the site and built the brand. We have a proven formula to engage our audience and deliver content, we are now focus on television, screen writing and a few other ventures.
How do you personally see the current state of Hip Hop?
Rahiem Shabazz: I see the hip-hop culture evolving, although some will argue its a detriment to today’s youth. But, like KRS-1 said, “If hip-hop has the power to destroy the youth, it also possesses the power to uplift them as well.
Hip Hop has become so regional these days. You yourself are a native New Yorker who has relocated to Atlanta. What differences stand out to you & what are your feelings on Atlanta/The South being proclaimed the new home of Hip Hop?
Rahiem Shabazz: As a native New Yorker who has resided in the South for over 10 years now, I seen the change in hip-hop first hand. The south is winning not because they make better music, but because of the unity amongst the rappers. However, New York will always be the epic center of the music industry, regardless to regional divides. More importantly, you have rappers from out West, East, Mid-West and South all making music together. So in the end, its all about good music. You never hear someone say Denzil Washington is a East Coast actor, Will Smith is a East Coast actor and Ice Cube is a West Coast actor, I try to stay away from regional labels.
A then & now question for you. Who & what were your Hip Hop influences growing up? Also, who do you rate highly & listen to now?
Rahiem Shabazz: My overall influence growing up was Brand Nubian, Rakim, Just-Ice, KRS-1, Public Enemy and N.W.A. I highly rate Jay-Z as one of the best to ever do it. If you study his career, you’ll see his trajectory to greatness that no rapper has been able to surpass.
Being so heavily involved in the media yourself, do you feel that Hip Hop that (what many would say) promotes negativity is what mainstream media highlights? As well as this, are you of the opinion that there is a lack of balance or positivity in today’s music?
Rahiem Shabazz: The negative portrayal on hip-hop has everything to do with the racist mindset of white supremacy. If they are not taking popular culture and claiming it as its own, they will use the participants of that culture as a tool and also a slave. Hip-Hop culture changed the political landscape of America and help to elect its first Black President and it reach is undeniable. If they could not use hip-hop to portray blacks as criminals and degenerates they would use sports or some other means.
What words of motivation & advice would you give to anybody aspiring to be involved in music media?
Rahiem Shabazz: My words of advice for anyone attempting to enter the entertainment industry is to study the greats and learn from the mistakes they made. Also, do not compromise your integrity to succeed because those that do never end up happy. The ultimate rule is be yourself, take chances and never take no for an answer.
In closing, I once again thank you for the opportunity to build. Hopefully we can catch up again in the future to discuss your continued successes. Peace to the God!
Peace, After viewing the documentary, I would want all of us to get to work to repair the damage that is being done. We should no longer look to outside entities to do what we should be doing for ourselves. If you’re not immense in the history and culture of our people then your opinion on what is the solution to the school to prison pipeline is invalid.
(Interview by Rashad Unique Allah)
View the synopsis, DVD purchase details & more of “Elementary Genocide” here
Visit the Rasha Entertainment website here